Using Color in Thermal Printer Workflows

Zebra Thermal PrinterIn today’s efficiency-focused world, just about every organization is interested in helping people accomplish tasks more accurately and quickly. Whether we’re trying to improve specimen handling in a health sciences lab, attempting to make price markdowns easier for retail customers to recognize, or trying to streamline warehouse workflows, we’re always on watch for tools and processes that make things easier and faster.

Solutions that drive efficiency come in lots of flavors, many of which involve new technology—robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), and so forth. But when helping people process essential information faster, one of the most effective tools is far more fundamental: color.

Researchers have explored the impact of color on learning, memory, and information processing for decades. They’ve shown that simple color cues can focus attention, help people process information faster, improve recognition, and even enhance memory. In fact, people usually recognize and react to color cues before reading a single word of text.

But there are still many workflows that rely on devices that are limited to monochrome capabilities, such as thermal printers. Like Henry Ford’s Model T, the thermal printers we use to print everything from shipping labels to lab specimen tags can print in any color you want, as long as it’s black.

Can we take advantage of color to help people recognize and process information faster and more efficiently, even when workflows require thermal printer output?

That’s the brilliant idea behind Zebra’s IQ Color thermal printing solution: It gives you a flexible way to highlight important information with color on everything from shipping labels to retail shelf tags. With IQ Color and a bit of planning, you can add color highlights to virtually any thermal printer output to help people identify, sort, and process information more accurately and quickly.

IQ Color technology adds invisible heat-activated color ink zones to the thermal printer medium during label manufacturing. When the label or receipt passes through the thermal printer, these color zones can be heat-activated to print shapes, text, or graphics in color. This innovative technology gives you a flexible, efficient way to introduce color into output from any Zebra thermal printer. That means you can get the benefits of color without resorting to expensive or inefficient methods like preprinted color thermal labels, laser or ink-jet printing, adding separate color labels, or using color markers.

Here’s a quick look at three applications for IQ Color technology:

Healthcare: Specimen Identification Labels

A medical service lab found that STAT specimens were not being processed promptly, which led to delays in providing results to clinicians and sometimes required samples to be recollected. By adding a red highlight area to the specimen label stock, specimens that require expedited handling are highlighted within the existing thermal printer workflow. The red STAT highlight is instantly recognized, improving specimen processing times and reducing the number of specimens that need to be recollected.

Retail: Price Markdown Labels

Traditional approaches to Indicating price markdowns on brand name apparel require time-consuming manual processes with price guns and preprinted color labels, and inefficiency introduces many errors into the system. With IQ Color, retailers automatically incorporate color-coded discount indicators into price labels, saving associate time, reducing costly mistakes, and calling customers’ attention to special pricing.

Warehouse: Package Sorting

In a regional distribution center serving eight different retail stores, packages with conventional monochrome labels had to be manually examined before the package could be placed on a skid for the correct store. Manual slowdowns and errors in shipping were common. With IQ Color, the shipper incorporates eight unique color zones on the shipping label. Now, the color-coded labels tell workers the destination for each package at a glance, reducing errors and improving on-time shipments across the board.

Contact Taylor Data Systems for Thermal Printing Solutions

Healthcare. Retail. Warehouse. As you can see, the applications for Zebra’s IQ Color thermal printing solutions are varied. Chances are, there’s an application where the simple application of a bit of color could improve the efficiency of your operations. If you would like to learn more, contact Taylor Data Systems and request the color IQ datasheet.